The Ninth Annual Conflict Transformation Workshop was held on December 1 – 4, 2011 in New Delhi. Titled Gender, Democracy and Peacebuilding in South Asia, the Workshop was qualitatively different from the previous eight dialogues, in terms of goals and composition.
Since 2001, the Conflict Transformation Workshops have brought together youth leaders (in the age group of 22 – 35 years) from India and Pakistan with a purpose to empower them with the motivation and skills to participate in peace processes. This year, WISCOMP broadened the Workshop composition to include 40 young professionals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka (in addition to India and Pakistan). Tibetan, Burmese and Afghan youth based in Delhi represented refugee voices and those displaced by conflict. The participants also represented diverse social, political and professional backgrounds. In this context, the 2011 Conflict Transformation Workshop sought to:
- Build trust and strategic relationships between young South Asians from a diversity of cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious backgrounds;
- Enhance professional development in the areas of gender, nonviolence and conflict transformation;
- Promote cross-border partnerships for peacebuilding; and
- Encourage empathy for diverse worldviews among South Asian youth leaders.
Drawing on WISCOMP’s work over the last 10 years in the areas of trust- and relationship-building, coexistence and citizen participation, the Workshop addressed the following questions:
Are South Asian democracies truly representative of their populations? In what ways can old power imbalances, particularly those pertaining to gender, caste and class, be transformed, at decision-making levels?
How do we move beyond the conception of democracy as one that simply involves the casting of an electoral vote, or worse still, an exercise in getting popular sanction for elite rule?
How might democratic practice expand the base of public dialogue on a diverse range of social and justice issues? Further still, how might the base of economic prosperity be broadened to include historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups?
What efforts have regional organizations and initiatives such as SAARC made to prevent and reduce armed violence as well as less visible forms of violence such as hunger, poverty and high maternal and child mortality rates?
What are some of the options that that the field of peacebuilding offers for enriching the processes of democratic governance, particularly at the local level? How might we strive to make peacebuilding frameworks and vocabulary an integral part of democratic practice?
The sessions were a combination of different formats, including lectures, panel discussions, roundtables, and elicitive workshops, and drew on a diverse range of media such as music, theatre and cinema. While the lectures introduced the academic discourse on concepts such as gender, democracy, peace and security, the panel discussions and roundtables investigated their functioning and efficacy on the ground by engaging with case studies. These were followed by elicitive workshops that looked at how popular media and culture address gender relations and social/political/familial conflicts in South Asia.